Part of USD 200 mn ADB loan spent on cash assistance scheme for paddy farmers

- island.lk

USD 3 mn Japanese grant attached to ongoing project

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An agreement on the much advertised cash assistance, provided exclusively to paddy farmers by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government, was finalised several weeks before then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stepped down on July 14, 2022 amidst violent protests.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided the wherewithal for this purpose to cash-strapped Sri Lanka following a request made on May 20, 2022.

Senior External Relations Officer, ADB, Roshani Yogarajah said that cash assistance to paddy farmers was discussed and decided in June-August 2022 during preparation of the latest project. Cash assistance provided to paddy farmers in two installments during the 2022/2023 Maha season (September-March) would cost USD 30 mn, Yogarajah declared. According to her, USD 30 mn had been allocated from USD 200 mn emergency assistance loan that was sought by Sri Lanka to provide relief to families badly affected by the continuing economic crisis. The Yala season covers May-August.

The ADB spokesperson at the ADB Resident Mission said so in response to The Island queries regarding when Sri Lanka sought the emergency loan, the amount of the ADB facility, terms and conditions of the loan if it was not a grant as indicated by Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera as reported by a section of the media and the total amount of ADB loans provided since the last presidential election held in Nov 2019.

Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the ADB on Sept.09, 2022 for USD 200 mn that has to be paid back with stipulated interest and other charges within 24 years.

The spokesperson said: “The cash assistance referred to in the articles is being supported under the Food Security and Livelihood Recovery Emergency Assistance Project. The government made an official request for the emergency assistance ($200 million to be provided with surplus loan proceeds cancelled from six ongoing projects) in May 2022. The inclusion of the cash assistance to farmers in the emergency assistance was discussed and decided in June-August 2022 during project preparation. The allocation for the cash assistance for farmers (to be provided in two installments during the 2022/2023 Maha season) is $30 million.”

In addition to the USD 200 mn emergency loan, the ADB has diverted USD 40 mn from what it called the Mahaweli Water Security Investment Programme to procure Muriate of Potash (MoP) fertilizer for paddy farmers for 2023 Maha season. According to Yogarajah, 40,000 tonnes of MoP that had been obtained was distributed among farmers.

The ADB said that the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies would execute the project. Sri Lanka sought USD 200 mn from ADB close on the heels of Ranil Wickremesinghe receiving Premiership on May 12 and five days after he received finance portfolio.

In the wake of Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe receiving appointment as Governor, CBSL, in April 2022, Sri Lanka requested the ADB’s intervention. According to the ADB, it has formulated an emergency assistance package in close coordination with the World Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and United Nations agencies. ADB has coordinated with these development partners in preparing the main project, as well as with the Embassy of Japan and JICA, Sri Lanka in designing the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific (JFPR) grant project.

USD 3 mn JFPR grant has been attached to ADB’s USD 200 mn loan with the intention of providing relief to those who were excluded from the ongoing social assistance programme. In terms of a previous agreement between ADB and Japan, the former will administer the USD 3 mn grant.

Asserting Russia-Ukraine war that erupted in February 2022 aggravated the crisis here, the ADB, too, faulted Gotabaya Rajapaksa government for hasty ban on the import of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in May 2021 that resulted in quite heavy loss of paddy production in 2021-2022.

ADB said that it has received assurance from Sri Lanka that the Japanese grant would be subjected to its policies, including those concerning anti- corruption measures, safeguards, gender, procurement, and consulting services.

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